Eating well is hard when you’re skint…

14 Jan

I haven’t posted on this blog in a very very long time; but after a long rant on my Facebook today, I feel that I need to write this down.

The point I was making on Facebook is that if I can feed myself for an entire week with just £20, so can anyone. This, in turn, led on to discussions of how poverty is linked with obesity, and other such subjects. But my main point still stands. Fortunately for me, I am blessed with the ability to cook, which many people nowadays aren’t. And this makes me really sad. Because there’s no reason why this should be the case! But unfortunately, it’s today’s culture. There’s no pressure for people to be able to cook anymore. It’s not taught in schools. It’s just not important. Why would you want to go out and buy ingredients to make a lovely dinner when you can buy a frozen pizza for £1? But this sort of mentality helps no one.

So, anyway, before I get too side tracked, here is my list of tips on how to shop smarter, eat smarter, save money and generally be happier 🙂

  1. Do your research! Pick up leaflets the next time you shop and see what’s going to be on offer next week, or look up offers online. Plan your meals around the deals! (This weekend, the ingredients for one of my favourite dinners are all half price! Result.)
  2. MAKE A LIST! So many people don’t do this! Make a list and stick to the list. This is the best way to keep on top of your spending. And it’s true what they say, don’t go food shopping hungry. That multipack bag of crisps that aren’t on the list will look 10 times more appealing.
  3. Don’t try and make complicated meals. The more ingredients your meal needs, obviously the more it’s going to cost. Stay away from dishes that require exotic ingredients that you’ll use once and then leave in the cupboard forever. It’s not worth it!
  4. Invest in a slow cooker. Sometimes you have to spend money to make money, but you can pick one up from Tesco for about £12. Have it cook dinner for you whilst you’re at work all day, so it’s all nice and prepared for you when you get home! Plus, slow cooking helps you to utilise cheaper cuts of meat as these are best cooked slow and low and are good in things like stews. Just throw everything in before you leave the house.
  5. Only buy what you need. Where possible, especially with things like veg, try to only buy what you know you’re going to use. If you only need a few carrots, don’t go for a whole 1kg bag if there’s the option to select and bag your own.
  6. Use your freezer! If something is about to go off and can be frozen, freeze it. Scour the reduced section of your supermarket for things you can chuck in the freezer to use at a later date. Most veg can be frozen too if you prep it first; if you’ve got a bunch of carrots that you don’t think you’re going to use for a while, chop them into rounds and bag them up in the freezer. Jamie Oliver showed us all how you can chop up herbs that have gone a bit sad and freeze them in olive oil in ice cube trays. But try and remember to label and date things with a sharpie. No one wants to be playing freezer roulette!
  7. Avoid doubling up. Look in your fridge, freezer and cupboards before you go shopping. If your recipe calls for mayo, make sure you don’t already have some before you go buying some more. At the same time, look to see what you already have before you plan your meals. Chicken in the freezer? Rice in the cupboard? Jerk chicken and spicy rice!
  8.  Downgrade. Don’t be snobby about brands. Sainsbury’s value chopped tomatoes are just as good as a name brand and will save you money. If it’s going into a bolognese, you’ll never know the difference anyway. A lot of products that are supermarkets own brand are made in the same factories as name brand products such as biscuits and condiments, so you’re not missing out on anything.
  9. Buy in bulk. Sometimes this is appropriate and sometimes it’s not. Buying a 3kg bag of pasta is probably a good idea as it’s likely that you’ll use all of it eventually and is cheaper than buying six 500g bags in the long run. On the other hand, multi-buys on things like salad is definitely a bad idea as it’s unlikely you’ll use all of it (unless you’re having a salad party) before it goes bad.
  10. Batch cook. Sometimes it makes sense to make a big batch and freeze portions for quick meals at a later date or pop in the fridge for lunch the next day. I always always ALWAYS cook 1 extra portion of a meal to take to work the next day for lunch so I don’t have to spend any money when lunchtime rolls around.
  11. Scour the internet. There’s so many websites and blogs that will show you how to make cheap meals; you really don’t have to look very hard. Not everyone is gifted with the power to just magically think up meals (I certainly can’t).
  12. Keep a recipe scrap book. This tip is absolute genius. I’ve kept a recipe book for YEARS and it’s like my holy bible. I’ll see a recipe that appeals to me, cut it/print it out and add it to the book, if I make it and I don’t like it I remove it. Pinterest is great for this if you’d prefer a digital version. That way you can find recipes online and add them instantly without having to faff around with printing anything.
  13. Change your supermarket. I’ve always shopped at Lidl and I’ve heard so many people make nasty comments about it, and I’ll never understand why! The only difference is that you don’t get such a wide choice of products. 1 type of chopped tomatoes, 1 type of bagged salad etc etc but this is where they cut their costs. All their fruit and veg is British (where possible) and all their fresh meat has the Red Tractor badge, so I really don’t know what everyone is moaning about! Aldi is also a good option if you have one or the other near you, but if not, mysupermarket.co.uk is a great place to see which supermarket your shop will be cheapest at. It compares Tesco, Sainsburys, ASDA, Aldi, Waitrose and Ocado, so you can either do a ‘pretend’ virtual shop (which is what I usually do) or just order online from whichever one works out cheapest!

These tips have been said over and over again by multiple people and sources, but these are the ones I live by and I follow them almost like a religion. Good luck!

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Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead

11 Jun

Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead

I have a huge appetite for food documentaries. I mostly watch ones about corruption in the farming industry, and the effects of fast food on our health and the economy (I’m making a conscious effort to eat less meat).

But then I came across Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead. Joe Cross, a morbidly obese Australian, suffering from a debilitating autoimmune disease, decides to turn his life around with a 60 day fruit and vegetable juice fast. Along the way, he inspires Phil Staples, an American weighing in at over 400 pounds, to do the same.

It really is an incredible story.

(The video is hosted by an American service, so you may need to install a little extension for Chrome or Firefox called Media Hint, but totally worth it!)

Haché

6 Jun

I’m a very demanding girl to have around, and I admit that. So when I exclaimed to Boy that we were going to try out a new place to eat, I think he pretty much knew I wasn’t going to be taking no for an answer. “How about we just go to Blues Kitchen again?”. Don’t get me wrong, I do like the Blues Kitchen (aside from the disappointing service last Sunday. That limp pile of slightly browning bagged salad was certainly NOT a micro herb garnish as stated on the menu), but I’ve been there and done that. Multiple times.

Of course, I got my own way and I was soon dragging him off to Haché; a postage stamp of a restaurant down Inverness Street, where one of Camden’s famous weekend markets usually stands, opposite the Electric Ballroom. Very discreet and unimposing.

We soon nestled into a corner and stared at the menu. There’s crazy amounts of choice, including the ‘Louisiana’, topped with crunchy peanut butter and melted American cheese. Not to my taste but fair play. To be perfectly honest, nothing was really jumping out at me (apart from that peanut butter), so I opted for a simple classic with a bit of flair; The Bavarian, you guessed it, topped with Bavarian cheese and caramelised onions. Boy went for a pulled pork special they had on. Ciabatta or brioche bun? “BRIOCHE!”  Boy didn’t have a say in the matter. He would get what I suggested and he would like it that way.

It really is a tiny establishment. We must have arrived in the nick of time because no sooner had we sat down but all of a sudden the hungry hoards turned up! Much to Boy’s disgruntlement. He didn’t appear to much enjoy having a larger lady’s bottom poking him in the back of the head whilst he was trying to enjoy his glass of Zinfandel, but I guess queuing patrons have to stand somewhere. (I did offer to swap with him by the way. I can be nice sometimes.)

burger 1

My burger was stacked high. So high I had to cut it in half just to attempt to get it in my face. (Messiness occurred. I do not enjoy a messy face/hands/chin) Opening up the bun was like peeking into a back street fromagerie. An enormous disc of Bavarian cheese sat atop my oozing beef patty like a menacing warning to arteries and vegans alike. Under that, a pile of sexily chunky caramelised onions. Then the burger, and then all the other ‘burgery’ type ingredients; red onion, lettuce blah blah blah. I didn’t detect many condiments, but the burger and onions provided plenty of lubricant and flavour that it was actually quite nice not to have tomato sauce swaggering around the place and contaminating everything with sugary tartness.

burger 3

I had a mouthful of Boy’s burger as well. Mmmmm. BBQ’d anything is one of my few but powerful vices, but pulled pork is somewhere right near the top of the list. Topped with a crispy onion ring and a cheeky rasher of bacon, it was good; although to be honest, I’ve had it before. A little overpowered by a store-bought sauce, and a little bit too ‘pulled’ for my liking. Either way, it was still tasty and he devoured it as I’ve seen him devour most meals.

burger 2

The burgers don’t come with accompaniments, so you have to pick them yourself (and pay for them separately, boo). We have a penchant for sweet potato anything, so we ordered a basket of the sweet potato fries to share. And they come in a little miniature fryer basket! Awww! Perfectly crispy, not soggy or burnt, they are probably the best sweet potato fries I’ve EVER HAD. They were gone in seconds, and I think we might have actually had a fight over the last one.

All in all, a delicious pre-cinema dinner. Reasonably priced. Intimate. Quaint. I wouldn’t dub it ‘the best burger restaurant in London’ like Time Out did back in 2005, but yes, it’s very good, and worth the money. Although I think with the sudden influx of trendy burger joints popping up across London (Patty & Bun, Lucky Chip, take your pick…), they’re going to need to do something to up their game. There’s too much choice on the menu, and all a little predictable. But still, if you’re in the area and hungry for something other than a market Chinese (as IF that would ever happen!) head on over.

Haché
24 Inverness Street
Camden Town
London
NW1 7HJ

http://www.hacheburgers.com/

Shoreditch Sunday

7 May

Spitalfields and Brick Lane are undoubtedly a Sunday mecca for the young and trendy, which is probably why I’ve avoided them for so long. But, being a new London resident and living payday to payday, there isn’t really much to do on a weekend that doesn’t cost money. And since they’re only a £1.40 bus ride away, it seemed like it was time to swallow my pride and find out what the attraction was (and hopefully find something sexy to eat whilst I was there).

Whilst waiting for the bearded one for over an hour (he got the wrong rail replacement bus and ended up in Homerton…*sigh*), I decided to take a little walk. Not far from the Shoreditch High Street bus stop, I stumbled across a disused lot, stuffed with street food and happy customers! Sweet heaven. I spent the rest of the day thinking about what sweet treasures it may hold.

Finally after chatting to some t-shirt designers and illustrators (it’s always time for a little networking) it was home time, and beardy boy agreed to go check it out before we jumped on the 67.

Inside, we found 3 vendors, none of which we’re foreign to me.

By the entrance, there was Yalla-Yalla. Recogniseable by their signature bright yellow branding, they serve up Lebanese and casual middle-eastern fare that critics have been going nuts over since 2008.

Deeper into the belly of the beast, we came across Street Kitchen. Straight from UK farms, sexed up, bistro style British. The slow roast pork on their menu read like a wet dream.

But there, shining like a beacon in a bright red 1959 vintage Citroen fire truck, was Engine. I had been excited about these guys since reading about them in the Evening Standard back in 2012 (remember that really sexy shoot with their red truck and the sexy 1940’s army babes? yeah…), and since I only had a tenner in my pocket, they seemed more than the obvious choice to grab a late lunch.

photo (2)

At only a fiver a pop, my companion and I both opted for the Yoshi Dog. A Japanese style beef dog with the perfect ‘snap’ (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, ask Adam Richmon), smothered in Takoyaki sauce and Wasabi mayo, and sprinkled with crispy onions and seaweed. All washed down with a shandy no less. A perfect combination; and the seaweed sticks to your lips in a rather hilarious fashion.

photo (1)

Also on the menu, is The Big Richard – ‘9 inches of smoked pork loving’ (“pun intended”), dill pickles, crispy onions, ketchup & mayo (so a bit of a classic then), Hose ‘A’ – 100% beef dog, smokey chipotle sauce, sour cream, crispy onions, cheese & jalapenos, and last but not least the Bacon Cheese – Double smoked ‘9 incher’ (pun probably also intended), melted cheese and rare breed streaky bacon.

Pocket friendly, thoughtful food, great service (I didn’t catch his name, but we had a nice chat with the guy serving us as to why it was definitely an excellent idea to serve shandy).

You can find them at their new permanent home alongside Yalla-Yalla and Street Kitchen –

HACKNEY HOUSE
186 Shoreditch High St
London
E1 6HU

@EngineFood
@Streetkitchen
@YallaYallaUK

Nightmare!

1 May

Right, hello bloggusphere.

Life has been a bit crazy since my last post (which was February, argh!). A breakup. Family illness. Moving house. Among other things.

So, as of right now, normal service shall resume, and I can finally get some proper content on this blog of mine. I am trying, honest!

Food Tube

19 Feb

Working in the industry which I do, I get to hear a lot about cool stuff that’s happening in advertising, film and TV.

But today I’ve come across this lovely little tidbit in Broadcast magazine.

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Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube (produced by Fresh One Productions and Spirit Digital) launched on the 21st Jan and will bring its watchers recipes and other bits specially recorded for Food Tube from Mr Oliver and his team, as well as content and recipes from contributors such as Aaron Craze.

Great idea if you’ve exhausted every single recipe book you own for dinner ideas! (Which I often do…)

My Skint Person’s Christmas Gift Guide!

30 Nov

Okay, here’s the scenario. You’re skint. You’re a student or out of work or generally just have nothing but moths in your wallet. Someone beloved to you is a foodie. Aside from actual FOOD, what the hell do you get them for Christmas?! You can’t afford a KitchenAid, and they appear to already own every gadget ever invented!

Well, never fear! I am here to guide you through the chaotic high street to find the perfect present. Or at least close enough!

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Let’s start off with the Jme Mini Terracotta Pot with paste set – £7.50 from John Lewis.

According to their website –  “These terracotta pots have been designed exclusively for Jme by Russell Pinch. Use is as a simple pinch pot for salt or pepper, in the oven to make a baked egg or mini pudding or swirl the paste into yoghurt or mayo to make a tasty dip”

Great! So once their done eating their yummy paste on some ciabatta or zesting up some meat, they have a lovely little pot to keep for other stuff!

You can either order one individually, or go here if you don’t mind letting John Lewis pick for you. (You can find links to the individual ones from there, don’t worry! I’m not an idiot. Most of the time.)

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If you’ve got a BIT more cash than you thought, we’ve got the Paxton and Whitfield Cheese Dome – £20 also from John Lewis.

I got something similar for my brother and his wife last year, but it didn’t have the fancy dome or sexy little chutneys with it, and he uses it all the time! (By all the time, I mean when he’s having a ‘do’)

I think this is a great little gift that looks really fancy and professional. The little drawer with the knives definitely ties it all together.

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You like the idea of the cheeseboard, but £20 is a bit above and beyond budget.

So how about this cute Heart Shaped Cheeseboard from Wilkinson’s ‘Little Birds’ range? It’s got a little laser etched heart design in the corner (and is heart shaped…) so perhaps a little girly for the special bloke in your life. But for only £4, maybe he can look at it as an expression of your love?

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Wilkos have also got this cute red and white polka dot Pie Maker set, also from the ‘Little Birds’ range, for £10.

Actually, Wilkinson’s Little Birds range is generally great for little bits and bobs. They’ve got heart shaped ramekins, a mezzaluna (which I really wanted to include in this post, but they don’t have it on their website. Bugger!) and all sorts of stuff. I highly recommend it for the budget conscious.

BHS (as usual) have an enormous array of foodie gems this Christmas. Seriously. They have so much stuff, I really struggled to pick just 2. (Have a look at it all here.) But here they my picks –

ketchup

For the Americana fan in your life, they’ve got this super cute Heinz Tomato Ketchup napkin dispenser for £8, which comes with 30 ‘I ❤ Ketchup’ printed napkins. It’s also refillable (duh).

oils

If your budget can stretch to it, they’ve also got this Oil & Vinegar duo with pourers for £20. If anyone would like to buy me this for Christmas, I’d be more than willing to humbly accept. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!

M&S’s selection was a bit pants, so I’m not even going to bother trying to pick stuff for you out of a rubbish selection. You suck Mr Marks and Mr Spencer!

Okay, new scenario. You get a call from a long lost friend/relative who says they’re on their way to your house with a gift! (And no doubt to drink all your wine/eat all your Quality Street) You haven’t got time to run into town and grab them something, the only option is the supermarket! So here’s my pick of decent supermarket foodie prezzies.

First up is Tesco…

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This metal Tala RetroCook’s Measure for £7.94 would also satisfy any retrophile as well. Two in one! Kapow!

 

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Forgot your wallet in the rush? Only got what’s in your pockets? Wallace Mug (of Wallace and Gromit fame) with special W&G teabag for £5. Bish bash bosh!

Next up is ASDA…

pestle

Who does’t need a Pestle & Mortar? And I think this one looks considerably more expensive than it is….£3! THREE POUNDS! *Runs off to ASDA to get one…*

mulledwine

Is Christmas really Christmas without mulled wine? Probably not. This set comes with the lovely red jug, wooden spoon, infuser ball and spice mix, for £10. Okay, it’s not the cheapest present they’ve got over at Baby Walmart, but it’s pretty. And once you give it to your unexpected guest, you can ‘suggest’ you use it immediately. But of course, it’s only a ‘suggestion’…ahem.

And Sainsburys…well, let’s not talk about Sainsburys. Their selection was rubbish. RUBBISH. So I’m not including them. You need to up your game sirs!

Anyway, that’s my selection from the high street. My Christmas shopping is nearly done. If you haven’t started yet, I suggest you hurry up!

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